Details are slowly beginning to emerge about the status of the Citizenship By Investment (CBI) Programme that came into law last year under the Keith Mitchell-led government to increase its cash flow at the National Treasury.
During a recent appearance on national radio and television, Prime Minister Mitchell who is also the island’s Minister of Finance, disclosed that 31 applications for the CBI programme were received but only nine were approved.
From among the nine people approved, Dr. Mitchell said are a few from Italy, one from Pakistan, and two from “Western Countries.”
The Prime Minister re-iterated government’s position not to release the names of those persons who have purchased passports under the scheme.
“I don’t think people would be very happy to know that you’re giving their names out publicly. No country does it, but we can certainly tell you where they come from …”, he said.
He pointed out that some people value their privacy and if you decide to put their names down on sheets of paper as purchasing passports under the CBI, “you may find that it can have a backlash against your programme”.
In 2014 when Mitchell’s ruling New National Party (NNP) administration announced that it was re-introducing the sale of passports programme, it said it was expecting the CBI programme to yield US $30M in revenue for government but later admitted only US $2.3M was received.
The Prime Minister said the fact that only nine applicants were approved by government it means that due diligent is being paid in screening those applications.
The 2003-08 NNP regime of Dr. Mitchell was forced to scrap the sale of Grenadian passports in the face of a decision by Canada to impose a visa requirement on Grenadians out of security fears that some of the passports might end up in the hands of criminal elements.
One of the persons who obtained a passport was fraudster, Eric Resteiner who became the subject of an investigation into allegations that he had provided PM Mitchell with a bribe of U.S$500, 000.00 at his luxury home at St. Moritz, Switzerland in exchange for a diplomatic posting.
Dr. Mitchell admitted receiving “approximately US$15, 000 from Resteiner as reimbursement fees for the trip to Switzerland and was cleared by a one-man government-appointed Commission of Inquiry undertaken by Barbadian jurist, Sir Richard Cheltenham.
Meanwhile, Political Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Senator Nazim Burke is not excited over the “little information” given by PM Mitchell to the nation on the CBI programme.
Sen. Burke charged that the committee that has been set up by government to conduct the screening of applicants under the CBI Programme does not have the expertise required to do the necessary screening and due diligence.
There are two channels that can be used through the CBI Programme for applicants to become successful.
Applications can be made through an Approved Investment project and the other method is through a financial commitment to the national transformation fund.
Sen. Burke said it is not known which of the channels was used by the nine to get their approvals for Grenadian passport.
The Congress Leader continues to maintain that the security risk the CBI Programme has for Grenada is real, and everything must be done to ensure that the country is not put at risk.